What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984


Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015)


Hallelujah Lyrics

Lyrics removed by the request of NMPA

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 27th, 2010 3:45pm report


    The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.

    The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.

    Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.

    There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.

    There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
    I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
    I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.

    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
    We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.

    This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    crissy
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    Feb 1st, 2009 2:27pm report


    Most of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.

    What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.

    And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.

    At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.

    So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.

    Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.

    Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 20th, 2015 3:22pm report


    In the life of David, his worst almost unforgivable blunder was the taking of the woman bathing on the roof who is Bethsheeba. In order to call her his own he had to send her husband, Uriah, the Hitite, to the front lines where he was almost certain to die and he did get killed and David claimed her for his wife. The karma lives on with their son Solomon who achieves greatness in wisdom with the Lord but also falls to lust with many princesses from other nations for political reasons and Solomon ends up worshipping many gods of foreign lands and loses his one-pointed devotion to God. David enjoyed such a closeness with God also before his sin. LC goes through the human drama of love, ups and downs, the highs and the lows. It is such a painful song about putting too much faith in human love and when that fails you are left empty and alone. In spiritual love, there is no pain but an eternal blossoming. But being human, like David, we easily fall prey to the enticement. Human love can be very beautiful and fulfilling if you love without attachment. But that is quite difficult sometimes. We love one person and forget the creator of that Love which is the Lord. Earthly love needs balance or it most definitely will end in pain. If the Lord is first in your life, if following the truth in your heart is first, then you will develop wisdom and balance and that will extend into your love life. It will be long lasting. If you love another without seeing God in that person, that love is doomed because there is always a chance for conflict. If your human love is viewed as but one aspect of the whole of your life, there will be balance and success in all undertakings. your marriage will last into a Golden anniversary. Hallelujah. But LC is not saying all that. He is hanging on to the power and passion of a purely physical mental emotional bond that has now lost its magnetism and it is a song of loss for a shattered dream. But he also remembers the power that the love once had and that in essence "It is better to have lived and loved than to have never loved at all." As human beings we are also very attached to our dramas be they sad or happy. Sad dramas carry deep passion and we are very attached to our great sadness. It ensures us that we are human and the pain reinforces that fact over and over again. This never ending drama also ensures our rebirth in the Buddhist sense of reincarnation to keep on experiencing our passions time and time again until we finally decide that the pain is either too much or too boring and then we make the final decision to disengage from the world and journey inward for true satisfaction...Hallelujah



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 6th, 15:20 report


    I think we needed Mr Cohen's explanation. Why was it never sought? All I can say is the first two verses are spiritual.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 4th, 19:20 report


    The Lord God the Father the Son & the Holy Spirit have so loved man/woman that all should rejoice for this as well as human loves lost or kept.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 25th, 11:53pm report


    I've read all the interpretations. I wish we had Leonard Cohen's input. I do subscribe to the idea that this is about a broken love. Haunting and melancholy...I really like Pentatonix's a cappella version. Just enjoy it...



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 18th, 11:06pm report


    This song is simply about a fight with a spouse/lover.

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    The writer is saying he thought of his lover as his "god" but everything he does is not very pleasing to her. He even does stuff that would be pleasing to the one true Lord but she still rejects it.


    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    Even though he loves his lover, he is a weak man and cheated on his lover, just like David did with Bathsheba (sinned against God), and Samson did by revealing to Delilah the source of his strength. The affair did not end well, and it appears now his lover has found out about it.


    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    He and his lover are now trading barbs in their argument. "All we ever do now is fight." Nobody wins in a lover's quarrel.


    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    He is saying he can live without her, but he doesn't want to. He's telling her that she is claiming that "she won" by kicking him to the curb, but no one is winning because he says they LOVE each other.


    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He is making one more plea to his lover to take him back. Remember the good times. Also throws in one little barb - "You never even try to share your feelings (or sex) with me any more!"


    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    Resignation. He is saying I tried hard to do good in this relationship (other than the affair) and you are not even trying to work this out. "I've done everything I can to make up for my mistake, and if you won't accept it there is nothing else I can do about it. Even though his prior mistake (affair) hurts him, he is moving on with his life with no regrets about the past.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  8.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 17th, 11:41am report


    In "Hallelujah", LC may deal with something he experienced in his private live. He may have fallen in love with a woman who was the partner of somebody else. The attraction was too strong to resist. Quite possibly, for her abandoned partner this was a tragedy. Now, after months or years of deep and hot love,the lovers have drifted apart.

    Remorse has gained the upper hand. For LC it is a small comfort that something similar happened to king David.

    What he makes of it, is touching and admirable. It's one of the best poems and songs we have.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 16th, 11:02pm report


    How about an opposite interpretation? This song is about the rejection of spiritual communion with God. David plays his heartfelt secret chord for the Lord, who is pleased at David's attempts to worship, since that strokes the Lord's ego, and the Lord praises David's attempts but does not truly appreciate his urgent creative expression. The Lord doesn't care for his music, or even David's love, he only cares for the worship. He does not love him back. So, David takes his unrequited love for the Lord and turns to a woman. She gleefully takes his power, but in return, gives him pleasure and understanding that he did not receive from God. The tying to a kitchen chair and haircut is a metaphor for being humbled by the return of his love. Giving up his power in return for this earthly pleasure brings a Halleluja to his lips and a gratefulness for love and understanding that God could not extract. He now worships her, and her ability to give him pleasure and love. He resists judgement by other people for his decision to worship this woman over God. Then, in the final verses, he describes that it was the lack of God's actual love for him that led him to live a life in pursuit of love in the mortal world instead. He now worships his own creativity (the lord of song) and human love.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  10.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 15th, 11:01pm report


    Leonard Cohen is an enlightened man. His song 'Sisters of Mercy' attests to his own experience with unity.
    Hallelujah is a song of gratitude.



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 14th, 11:10pm report


    A truly great Song has many interpretations.
    Ironi and desillusion can also be heard.
    But Cohen keeps saying halleluja in spite of all hardship and shortcomings.
    I hope the Lord of Song will let him sing forever.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 14th, 11:41am report


    Hallelujah is one of the most beautiful songs one could ever sing or listen to. But it's not about God, it's about the beauty as well as the Heart break of love between a man and a woman. I could go verse by verse, but if you take the last verse " as I moved inside you" as they reached orgasm together, they sang the hallelujah.
    It's beautiful. But it is not a Christmas song. It makes me smile when it shows up on a Christmas album or better yet with a choir singing it. So I am going to go one step further and say God made humans to be sexual beings and I think He smiles everytime this song is sung for His glory. Hallelujah!



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 14th, 11:12am report


    Take the lyrics away and it's a moving tune.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 14th, 11:12am report


    I think that people, over think the song. Lot's of people thought that "Paul is dead" due to Beatle clues, but after all, it was just people trying too hard to make a theory work. Here is my take. I relate to the song because it happened to me. Perhaps that is what makes a song great ... he is singing to me and you and we all have our own interpretation. John Lennon wrote many songs that he only understood years later. He mentioned that in concert ... This is my own story and how it relates ...

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?

    (Leonard has written a song to woo his wife/girl, but finds that she has a deaf ear and music doesn't mean much to her. He tries hard, but falls short to please her. They are wired differently and have different interests. Opposites attract, but wear down over time. My marriage is kind of like that, so I relate).

    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    (Leonard knows it's a great song from the heart, and he is baffled as to how she cannot fully appreciate it or him).

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

    Leonard saw another beautiful woman and gave into temptation ... cheating on his lover).

    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    Leonard's wife/girl interrogated him, thought less of him, took his power over her away and became the power in the relationship ... drawing the Hallelujah since she is now in control, bullying him and forcing him to tell her he loves her).


    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya

    (Leonard's admitting that he was getting back at his wife or girlfriend. Maybe because she cheated on him first and he couldn't help himself to even the score, or she just "outdrew" him and hurt him first). (Again, I lived that experience).

    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    (Leonard's relationship will never be the same with his wife/girl. He doesn't cry, he hasn't really forgiven her, nor her, him. He hasn't seen the light. He just goes through the motions, tells her he loves her, but in reality, has severe doubts that he is lying to himself, due to their baggage).

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.

    (Leonard isn't emotionally connected with her any long. He is out of the bedroom. He just lives alone, but with her in the house. That's how it feels ... nothing in common and no enthusiasm to make things better ... the broken Hallelujah).

    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    (I like the Nazi reference in Paris "the city of love" ... You cannot force love, bully it, trample over it and make it better again, nor can you feel the same either.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?

    (Leonard is remembering his old love life, and wondering where she is cheating).

    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    (Reference to how spiritual their love making was. When they declared and showed their love, they meant it. Their love was holy)

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you

    (Leonard could have been more sensitive to her and tried to touch her without feeling. Sex is now empty.)

    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    (The Lord of Song is actually his wife/girl and he is being sarcastic ... he is Jewish right? ... sarcasm is a second language. He doesn't make love to her any longer ... she won't have it. He just tells her he loves her, even though it will never be the same).

    That's my take on the song. Might be wrong about the cheating, but it can be interpreted that way. If not, then it's like Blly Joels' "Stiletto." Man is helplessly in love and beat on.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 11th, 11:08am report


    This was so comforting in light of the election. I'm thinking faith having to do with people doing the right thing as far as their responsibilities to their fellow man.Huge disappointment, but hope,too.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 4th, 11:13pm report


    Not an interpretation, but need to add Pentatonix to the "Cover" list.



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 12th, 10:10am report


    I believe the song has more to do with dealing with one's own disobedience against God.

    Verse 1
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    The person is despairing that he has fallen out of favor with the Lord and that he cannot just play a song to make things better.

    Verse 2
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you to a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    He falls to lust and feels powerless to come back from it. Even though he feels pleasure, it is empty and unfulfilling.

    Verse 3
    You say I took the name in vain
    I don't even know the name
    But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
    There's a blaze of light
    In every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

    He tries to deny his sin and tell those who call him out that it's none of their business. He still recognizes the power in God's word, but is struggling with his indecision.

    Verse 4
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though it all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    Finally, he feels redemption. He knows that even though he did wrong God is still kind and forgiving. The person has repented and again desires to be close with God.



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 2nd, 10:12pm report


    He first 2 lines of this song just haunt me. I see a person willing to compose a piece of music that would be good enough to be played for God Almighty Himself but alas no not good enough for u. Unrequited love. We've all felt it. Devastating



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